I just learned today that last Sunday (not yesterday, but the one prior), I was apparently a reason for discussion. I bore my testimony. Ok, now that all have recovered from the shock that a. I have a testimony and b. I got up to share it, we can move on. I got up and my typical testimony (which always included a strong witness of prayer and the love of our Heavenly Father). But I started it out like this:
Recently, I was feeling very nostalgic and so was reading my journal. I was shocked to be reminded of all the crises of faith I had when I was a teenager. I thought God didn't exist and the Church was a scam and so on. It's surprising for me to contrast that with me now. I'm not saying I've had a major vision or anything, just the accretion of belief. So, I want to bear my testimony of the Gospel. I don't want to imply that I don't have any doubts, because I do. There's lots of the gospel I don't understand or agree with and even more that I don't like. But I believe the bulk of it.
I then went on to bear my testimony. Some of my friends in the ward told me that I caused some talk (which means I probably caused a lot of talk, since some came back to this set that are not the most uptight of believers). One girl thought it was inaccurate to bear testimony of the Gospel and say there's parts I don't understand or believe as if the Gospel is one cohesive chunk of taffy and you can't digest pieces at a time. Others just thought my testimony was inappropriate because I didn't rely on forumalae. Well, granted that's not how they protrayed their idea, but the essential point is that my testimony was unusual.
This really pisses me off for several reasons. First of all, I have the terrible vision of a becoming another project, like was beginning to happen at the end of my stay at Alpine Apts (granted, I was semi-inactive then, but still...). Secondly, it suggests that my ward only wants cookie-cutter testimonies and therefore simplistic members. It implies that faithful doubt or honest spirituality is something akin to disbelief and should not be the stance of the church attendee. Or maybe you can be that, just by all means don't share with us. We'd rather have the guy who makes non sequitor, obnoxious jokes and claims to love everyone in ward. Now, there's a testimony. But saying the church is true with no qualifiers is problematic because the statment doesn't really map to reality in any meaningful way (i.e. it asserts nothing) and causes problems with unchanging truth since the church as the application of the gospel changes, while the gospel proper does not.
The main reason I got upset with the fact that my testimony caused a stir is that I firmly disagree with the notion of a solid, packaged Gospel. There are problems with this. It claims that we have all truth (not so) and that nothing should trouble us spiritually. It also means we cannot gain testimony of certain principles and add it to our overall picture. Rather, we believe all things or we believe nothing. I really think there are going to be things that we, as individuals, will never fully come to terms with in this life. That doesn't make us evil. As long as we've got the bulk correct and do our duty, these wrinkles will be ironed in the hereafter. As negative as the image of a salad bar believer is, I really think that's how we should approach our gospel learning. You take a bunch of parts you know and love and add to it over time. It only gets better and better as you go. But just because all you've got is lettuce, carrots and crutons doesn't mean you shouldn't bear testimony or that you don't actually believe what you're saying. If you already know everything where's the room for faith? Does faith not require a degree of doubt a sense that you may be wrong?
No wonder people who don't feel perfect leave the church. We're crafting a religious experience with set parameters. I really wonder what Joseph thinks about this. He so strongly disliked creeds and other forms of set belief. I wonder if he's upset with the de facto stipulations those that claim to support his theology have organized. I'm not him, so I can't say, but I do know that it bothers me. And I'm almost as good as the Prophet of the Restoration, right?